SPEECH BY ARUN MAHIZHNAN, DIRECTOR, CENTRE FOR SINGAPORE TAMIL CULTURE, AT THE LAUNCH OF CENTRE FOR SINGAPORE TAMIL CULTURE ON 06 FEBRUARY 2018
Today is a historical day for all of Singapore, especially for Tamils. Though Tamils are known to have arrived, occupied and even settled in this region centuries ago, there have been discontinuities in their history. However, since 6 February 1819, exactly 200 years ago to this day, when Stamford Raffles signed the Treaty of Singapore and established a trading post for the East India Company, there has been an unbroken history of Tamil community in this land, as he had brought Tamils along with him. The Tamil community, along with many other ethnic and linguistic communities, arrived, settled and made Singapore its home. Along the way, we have transformed ourselves from Tamils from Malaya, Tamils from India, and Tamils from Sri Lanka to Tamils of Singapore. Better still, Tamil-Singaporeans.
Yet, as a community with a distinct identity in name, we have not evolved into a community with a distinct identity in practice. Many of us have become distant, if not deracinated, from our own culture. Worse still, we are unable to tell others who we are because we do not ourselves know who we are. And when we do not know ourselves, it becomes even more difficult to know who others are. There are no reference points. It is for these reasons that we have decided to inaugurate a new collective called the Centre for Singapore Tamil Culture (CSTC). The CSTC will help us to know ourselves and to share with others who we are and to learn from others who they are. At the basic level, that is what CSTC is really about.
As you all know, this is a ground-up initiative, conceived and composed by concerned citizens. We are here to fill the knowledge gaps amongst us, to do what needs to be done and to share what we find.
Even as we seek, cultivate and celebrate our Tamil identity, we will never for a moment forget that we are Singaporeans first. That is why we began this new journey today with our traditional invocation to Mother Tamil by Bharathi, followed immediately by our national anthem by Zubir Said.
200 years ago a journey began and, thanks to foresight, hard labour and good fortune, the journey still continues. 200 years later, today, we are beginning another journey with the Centre for Singapore Tamil Culture. Each of us have lit a lamp to show us the way. May this be an endless journey!